State Complaint

What is a State Complaint?

A state complaint is very much what it sounds like: a letter written to an official state agency to report a violation or problem. It is one of several procedural safeguards available under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to resolve disputes.

A state complaint may be filed by parents or by an organization or individual, including those from another state. Written directly to the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE), state complaints must describe what requirement of IDEA the public agency has violated, among other specific things.  They must also be signed.  Complaints/concerns made in person or over the telephone are not considered formal or written complaints.

State complaints are an important procedural safeguard in IDEA, because they give individuals and organizations a mechanism through which they can address special education conflicts and resolve disputes. The complaint resolution process tends to be less intimidating than a due process hearing and is an alternative to it.  Complaints may concern one child or student, or a group of children or students.

Interestingly, the IDEA statute does not include State complaint procedures. Rather, it is the final regulations that require each state to adopt written procedures for resolving any complaint that meets the definition of a “State complaint” under both the Part B and Part C regulations. The requirements for State complaint procedures are found in the regulations at §§300.151-300.153 for Part B and §§303.432-303.434 for Part C.

Source:  Five Options, 1-2-3, Center for Parent Information and Resources.  Filing a State Complaint, Center for Parent Information and Resources.  IDEA Special Education Written State Complaints, Center for Appropriate Dispute Resolution in Special Education.


Why File a State Complaint?

A few examples of when a parent might file a written state complaint include, but are not limited to:

  • You disagree with a decision regarding your child’s eligibility for services.
  • You believe that SoonerStart or your School is not following your child’s Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) or Individualized Education Program (IEP).

SoonerStart families (birth to 36 months) State Complaint Procedures:

If a parent believes SoonerStart or a local SoonerStart site has violated a federal or state regulation under the IDEA, Part C, the parent may file a formal written complaint with the OSDE-SES, SoonerStart.  SoonerStart has developed a brochure, Formal Written Complaint Procedures.  Parents and SoonerStart are encouraged to use the Mediation process, however it is not required to participate before filing a State Complaint.  The following are basic guidelines to help when filing a State Complaint:

Required Information:
The formal written complaint must include:

1. A statement that SoonerStart or a local SoonerStart Site has violated a requirement of Part C of the IDEA;

2. A statement of the facts on which the formal written complaint is based;

3. The original signature and contact information for the complainant; and

4. If alleging violations regarding a specific child:

a) The name of the child and address of the residence of the child;

b) The name of the SoonerStart site where the child and family are receiving services;

c) In the case of a homeless child or youth, available contact information for the child and the name of the SoonerStart site where the child is receiving services;

d) A description of the nature of the problem, including facts relating to the program; and

e) A proposed resolution of the problem to the extent known and available to the party filing the formal written complaint at the time the complaint is filed.

Optional Form to File:
The OSDE has developed a Request to File a Formal Written Complaint form to assist parents and other parties in filing a State complaint. However, individuals are not require the use of these forms.  Another form or document may be used so long as the form or document includes the content required for filing a State complaint.

Where to Mail:
A copy of the formal written complaint must be submitted to OSDE-SES (Attention: Complaints, 2500 Lincoln Boulevard, Suite 412, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73105-4599) and a copy must be sent to the local SoonerStart site serving the child.

Timeline to File: 
The dispute in question must not have occurred more than one year before the date that the formal written complaint is received by SoonerStart unless a longer period is reasonable because:

1. The dispute in question continues for that child; or

2. The complainant is requesting compensatory services for a violation that occurred not more than three years prior to the date the formal written complaint is received by SoonerStart.

Both a State Complaint and a Due Process Issue:
If a formal written complaint is received that is also the subject of a due process complaint hearing, or contains multiple issues, of which one or more are part of that hearing, SoonerStart must set aside any part of the formal written complaint that is being addressed in the due process complaint hearing, until the conclusion of the hearing. However, any issue in the formal written complaint that is not a part of the due process complaint hearing action must be resolved using the time line and procedures described in this section.  Be aware that if a due process hearing officer has already made a decision on an issue, and the same facts and parties are involved, the hearing officer’s decision is final unless it is appealed.

The Investigation:
The OSDE-SES, appoints a complaint investigator. The complaint investigator makes a recommendation to the OSDE-SES regarding the validity of the complaint. After reviewing all relevant information, the OSDE-SES, must determine whether the complaint is valid.  Some written state complaints are resolved without the need for an investigation.

The investigator may conduct an on-site investigation if it determines that one is necessary. The complaint investigator must give the complainant the opportunity to submit additional information, in writing within the timeline permitted, about the allegations in the formal written complaint. The OSDE-SES, must submit a written report of the final decision to all parties involved, including findings of fact, conclusions, and reasons for final decision.

Timeline to Investigate:
All formal written complaints must be investigated within 60 calendar days after the receipt of the formal written complaint by the OSDE-SES.  An extension of the 60 day time line may be granted only if exceptional circumstances exist with respect to a particular formal written complaint or if a mediation to resolve the formal written complaint is requested.

The Resolution:
The OSDE must provide a written decision that addresses each problem identified in the complaint. It includes facts and conclusions and lists the reasons for the final decision. The decision must also include any actions required to address the needs of the child or group of children involved in the complaint.  In resolving the formal written complaint in which the SoonerStart has found a failure to consider appropriate services, SoonerStart, pursuant to its general supervisory authority under Part C of the IDEA, must address:

  1. How to remediate the denial of the appropriate services including, the awarding of compensatory services, monetary reimbursement or other corrective action appropriate to the needs of the child; and
  2. Appropriate future provision of services for all children similarly situated.

Source:  SoonerStart Early Intervention Policies, Oklahoma State Department of Education.


School-age (3 to graduation) State Complaint Procedures:

A formal complaint may be filed with the OSDE by any individual or organization who believes their local school district or other education agency has violated a requirement of Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Part B. The OSDE will accept a complaint received by mail, fax or hand delivery.  Parents and Schools are encouraged to use the Mediation process, however it is not required to participate before filing a State Complaint.  The following are basic guidelines to help when filing a State Complaint:

Required Information:
The formal written complaint must include:

1. Current date;

2. The name, address, and telephone number of the person making the complaint (or available contact information);

3. The signature of the person making the complaint;

4. If alleging violations regarding a specific student, the name and address of the student involved (or available contact information in the case of a homeless student or family);

5. The school and LEA or other education agency that is the subject of the complaint;

6. One or more statements (allegations) that the LEA has violated one or more requirements of IDEA Part B;

7. The facts and/or a description of the events that support each allegation; and

8. Proposed resolution of the problem or the relief sought to the extent known and available to the party at the time.

Optional Form to File:
The OSDE has developed a Request to File a State Complaint form to assist parents and other parties in filing a State complaint. However, individuals are not require the use of these forms.  Another form or document may be used so long as the form or document includes the content required for filing a State complaint.  The OSDE will notify the person filing the complaint if they need more information to process their claim.

Where to Mail:
A copy of the formal written complaint must be submitted to OSDE-SES (Attention: Complaints, 2500 Lincoln Boulevard, Suite 412, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73105-4599) and a copy must be sent to the School District serving the child.  You may also submit via fax to 405-522-3503.

Timeline to File: 
The dispute in question must not have occurred more than one year before the date that the formal written complaint is received by the OSDE unless a longer period is reasonable because:

1. The dispute in question continues for that child; or

2. The complainant is requesting compensatory services for a violation that occurred not more than three years prior to the date the formal written complaint is received by the OSDE.

Both a State Complaint and a Due Process Issue:
If a formal written complaint is received that is also the subject of a due process complaint hearing, or contains multiple issues, of which one or more are part of that hearing, the OSDE must set aside any part of the formal written complaint that is being addressed in the due process complaint hearing, until the conclusion of the hearing. However, any issue in the formal written complaint that is not a part of the due process complaint hearing action must be resolved using the time line and procedures described in this section.  Be aware that if a due process hearing officer has already made a decision on an issue, and the same facts and parties are involved, the hearing officer’s decision is final unless it is appealed.

The Investigation:
Upon receipt of a written complaint, the OSDE will do the following:

  • Determine whether the complaint meets all of the required criteria.  If more information is needed, the OSDE will notify the complainant.
  • Notify the School District that a complaint has been received and the timeline to submit documentation.
  • A person or team is assigned by the OSDE to work on the complaint.
  • An investigation takes place, which may include visits to a school or other locations, reviews of documents, and interviews of people who have information relating to the complaint.

Timeline to Investigate:
All formal written complaints must be investigated within 60 calendar days after the receipt of the formal written complaint by the OSDE-SES.  An extension of the 60 day time line may be granted only if exceptional circumstances exist with respect to a particular formal written complaint or if a mediation to resolve the formal written complaint is requested.

The Resolution:
The OSDE will issue a Final Report that includes the findings of fact, conclusions, and resolution for each violation. The resolution will state:

o How to remedy any denial of services, which may include the award of compensatory services, or other corrective action as appropriate to the needs of the student; and

o The future provision of services for a student with a disability, if such clarification is needed.

The OSDE will also ensure the School takes corrective action if it is determined that they were out of compliance. All corrective actions must be completed no later than one year from issuance of the finding of violation. The OSDE may require a timeline for correction at a date earlier than one year.

Source:  Special Education Handbook, Oklahoma State Department of Education.